Infertility is a growing problem. According to the American Pregnancy Association, almost one out of every six couples is affected by it. Male infertility contributes to approximately 30 per cent of all infertility cases, with male infertility alone accounting for around one-fifth of all cases.
Dr. Yasmin Sajjad, Consultant – Obstetrics & Gynecology/Reproductive Endocrinology at Burjeel Hospital Abu Dhabi, said, “Couples who have not been able to conceive for more than a year are diagnosed with infertility. Often, women tend to be under focus when it comes to infertility. However, male infertility is just as likely to be the cause as female infertility.”
Tests show that between 30 to 50 per cent of problems are with the male partner. “Dealing with infertility can be very tough for men especially with cultural norms and social pressure adding to the situation. We see a lot of such cases in the UAE,” Dr. Sajjad added.
Male infertility is often linked to sperm production or sperm transportation. About two-thirds of infertile men have a problem with producing sperm in the testes. Some suffer from a condition called azoospermia (zero sperm count in their ejaculation fluid); others may have either low numbers of sperm and/or sperm that do not function properly. Blockages in the tubes leading sperm away from the testes to the penis can also cause a complete lack of sperm in the ejaculated semen. Other issues linked to infertility involve sexual conditions and hormonal imbalances.
Medical advancements have raised hope and chances of helping men with a zero sperm count improve their chances of fertility. Dr. Manaf Al Hashimi, Consultant - Urology and Head of Department, Burjeel Hospital Abu Dhabi, said: “We recently treated a 28-year-old male using the microscopic testes sperm extraction method. He was referred to us by a hospital in Oman and was told he could never have children because of his zero sperm count. However, using this technique, we were able to retrieve many normal sperms. He and his wife are now pursuing in-vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment to conceive using his viable sperm.”
Twenty patients over the last period benefitted from this breakthrough technique and 60 per cent of the cases have successfully retrieved viable sperms used for IVF treatment. “This is a high success rate and offers hope to thousands of men who want to start a family,” added Dr. Hashimi.
Microscopic testes sperm extraction involves dissecting the testes using an operating microscope; viable sperms are then identified and extracted for use during IVF. The procedure is performed under general anesthesia through a small (2-3 cm) incision in the scrotum. Using a micro-dissection surgical set enables a more delicate handling of testicular tissues. This procedure yields the highest sperm retrieval rate and causes the least amount of damage to the testes. About half of people who had no success in finding viable sperms using an ordinary testicular biopsy have had great results with this new technique.
Dr. Sajjad shares some advice: “There are several factors that can affect sperm production. These include smoking, excessive consumption of alcohol, sexually transmitted infections, heat stress caused by wearing tight fitting underwear, as well as anabolic steroids.”